Post-Modern Mothering: Fruit of the Poisonous Tree
I tread the path between two rows of beating drums. One row says 'don't make my mistakes' and the other smugly chides me for enjoying it at all. It commands instead for me to resist every urge to take joy in what might, in fact, be a 'bland and futile woman-trap.' I hate this stuff. This is what makes parenting suck and blow as we used to say. It is a scratch at the multi-layer power politics of parenthood.
My source for the crud is my mother and my MILs, for I am blessed with two. In addition I can sometimes count on random strangers to offer it up and then there are a handful of the aunties and etc. etc. Men are not immune, only less effective. All the defeatist claptrap. Isn't this hard enough without all that?
This past week I attended a vacation to my MIL's which was steeped in the propaganda. My own little family living and re-living every resented road trip of my husband's childhood. We worked pretty hard to schlep our way the 6 hour drive to partake of all this so I am a bit piqued just now. I despair at times our imperfection and the dismay over our version of family life from such a key family member.
Am I alone?
I have heard it from others, too. Worst for me is the dialogue of mothers and mother-daughters. Sometimes it is called a sad, uneasy, or tense relationship we feel our predecessors had with being mothers. A hesitancy in the giving, or was it more some regrets, of lives interrupted. As a teenager my mother told me that being a mother ran a weak third to her existence as a worker or friend. Being the sensitive over-thinker I am haven't I reflected on that news about 500 times.
A couple weeks back similar patter was put out around here. I believe what I said to my Mom then was "Could you get some new material?" I didn't have anything so pithy for my MIL who concluded our recent visit with the following: "See I told you so. The family vacation is never any vacation for the mother." I mean 'good to see you too' just didn't seem to cut it. So I stood eyes downcast muttering, "Yes." and "Of course you did." Complicit. Co-opted. Thinking about what others have said already.
I feel there is an overwhelming urge on the part of most parents to mentor. To mentor those who come after. I just don't want these mentors. I prefer the energy from the parenting community online we are more collegial and a measured boosterism is inate here. More in keeping with the unconditional support I crave in my parenting.
I think from here on in I will press myself to forget asking my mother how she ever did it. I will instead think to my grandparents experiences and those before. Those at some distance from the parenting machine that characterised my own upbringing. I am sorry that it sucked for my Mom or p-Ma. I just don't really want to hear it anymore.
In other news.. Thanks everyone for all the great input on the bibliography. I hope get to work on the annotations shortly.